ADHD in Women

42 Raw Confessions from Women with ADHD

ADDitude asked its readers: What do you wish the world knew about being a girl or woman with ADHD? More than 600 of you responded.

A photo of a group of young women lying head to head, facing opposite directions.
Photo by Aline Viana Prado:
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42 Things You Need to Know About Girls and Women with ADHD

The world is seriously misinformed about how women and girls experience ADHD.

This is the overwhelming sentiment reflected across Instagram comments in response to ADDitude’s question: What do you wish the world knew about being a girl or woman with ADHD?

From the significance of hormonal fluctuations to the weight of stigma, shame, and misunderstood symptoms, here’s what women need you to know about what it’s like to grow up and live with ADHD.

What else should the world know about being a woman with ADHD? Tell us in the comments (or join in on the conversation via Instagram!)

Photo by Anna Shvets:
Photo by Anna Shvets:
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We’re Not Allowed to Show Our ADHD

“Being a mother with ADHD and having children with ADHD is even harder because the world expects you to parent like neither of you have it.” — @softballgarden

Our hyperactivity is internal. It’s in our minds. And we are made to hide it. So we are EXHAUSTED from masking. You see us sitting still, but we’re not. Our minds are NEVER still.” — @alexandra.c.beale

To be a woman with ADHD is to be set up for repeated failure to meet societal (and familial) expectations, and to carry the shame of those repeated failures, the weight of which most men with ADHD simply don’t even have to consider or even be aware of.” — @vmhague

“We are not all predominantly inattentive and good at masking our hyperactivity. With being a clumsy, fast-talking, hyperactive, restless woman comes a specific sense of shame that’s taken me a long time to shake off. I struggle with feeling more disheveled, less poised, and subsequently less ‘feminine’ than how I perceive other women.” — @vanessamilton_

“What you see, and therefore what you assume, are very different from what I’m experiencing internally.” — @misskellychavez

Next Steps:

A tired woman resting on her couch while looking at her phone
Photo by mikoto.raw Photographer : A tired woman resting on her couch while looking at her phone
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Most of Us Are Burnt Out

We are CONSTANTLY burnt out because we refuse to treat ourselves like we have a disability — because everyone needs something from us and wants it with a smile.” — @courtneyadhd

“Just because we get things done doesn't mean we don't have ADHD. [That assumption] is dismissing the complete and exhausting dumpster fire that happened in my brain to actually accomplish what was done.” — @blackaxedream

“I can only deal with so much in a day, and that limit varies from day to day. I will experience burnout if I push beyond this limit, so when I say I can't do anymore, I mean it.” — @groovybeanz

“ADHD can also look like being a good student who is a ‘pleasure to have in class’ — because no one else can see the anxiety and perfectionism until you burn out as an adult.” — @jyapapaya

Next Steps

Abstract background with curve lines. Demonstrates change, flux, fluctuations,
Photo by Anna Shvets: background with curve lines. Demonstrates change, flux, fluctuations,
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Hormonal Fluctuations Fundamentally Impact How We Experience ADHD

When estrogen decides to leave the building once a month, executive functioning/ADHD worsens. If you're medicated, it can feel like medication is not working that well. This can get worse with age and then we get screwed again come menopause. Take care of both your ADHD and your hormones as best as you can because they affect each other more than you think!” — @rosecolewoman

“It gets worse as we get older. Perimenopause brain fog + ADHD is like walking around inside a cloud of permanent confusion.” — @alisonjanetripney

Our hormones impact our ADHD symptomatology and moods. This is not in the DSM because most studies were done on boys. Mood swings are definitely part of the female experience of ADHD and our cycle greatly impacts the severity of our symptoms. So many medical professionals do not know this.” — @adhd_ame

Hormones can knock out our ADHD meds completely. Also, PMDD is very common with ADHD.” — @pinkpearbear_adhd

“Pay attention once you hit your 40s, as you likely need to address symptoms of perimenopause, which are often mistaken for and overlap with ADHD. Inform yourself, as the psych community is WAY late to the game. (Hell, they’re at the wrong stadium.)” — @hannah4pix

Next Steps

A closeup of a woman with closed eyes, a tear streaming down her face.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska: Sad woman crying. Sadness, shame, depression, emotional
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We Are Unlearning a Lifetime of Shame

Learning we have ADHD is both liberating and painful. We now know our issues were due not to a lack of effort but of suitable support. We also realize how long we were mischaracterized and shamed. For many of us, we had come to believe we were flakey, ditzy, lacking willpower, chaotic, careless, sloppy, etc. We are now unlearning a lifetime of shame and deprecating messages we’ve internalized. The process is so bittersweet, it’s hard to adequately put it into words.” — @alanapace1

The amount of guilt, self-blame, self-shame, self-help and internal work we do on ourselves in order to improve daily is more than a person without ADHD will do in their lifetime.” — @rinabhartman

“Whatever someone is judging me about, I’m judging myself 48,387,473 x worse. It can be crushing.” — @oliviablackmore

Next Steps

Helping hands of friends hugging and supporting each other.
Photo by Liza Summer:
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We Try So, So Hard. And We Absolutely Care.

I’m an extraordinarily hard worker, but it takes me twice as long to get anything done.” —@vavaenviv

I'm trying. All. The. Time. I'm. Trying.” — @khalilahhallphoto

Nobody is harder on themselves than we are. Every missed deadline, every late arrival, every annoying mistake, every floundering new routine… we are more annoyed than anyone else to be doing that.” — @teachbri

We are learning to emotionally regulate ourselves while we parent our kids because girls weren’t associated with ADHD when we were growing up. We lack the very skills we’re expected to teach our kids.” — @mbanne019

“To our friends and loved ones: We care, we really do, even when we forget to text, take pictures, or send cards. We truly love you and care. We can’t remember your phone number or your favorite color, but we care. We will fight hard, kick down doors, drive miles, catch you when you fall, and be there by your side if you say the word.” — @tara_annette

Comments like ‘You can do better,’ ‘But you’re so smart,’ or ‘If it was important enough, you’d remember’ are unhelpful and make us feel like we are lazy, stupid and don’t care. Enough of that, and we begin to ask, ‘Why would anyone want me in their life?’ There are many beautiful, brilliant, and funny aspects to us. Find out.” — @dr_stacie_neurofeedback

Next Steps


Image: pixelfit/Getty Images
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We’re Not Interrupting. We’re Engaged.

Interrupting is part of how we listen actively. I know it can be annoying, but assume best intentions and give some grace. Sharing stories about ourselves after you share a story about yourself is how we relate and empathize.”  — @happyasagem

Reacting to someone’s story by telling another somehow-related story is not a way to show off, it’s our way of listening, of showing we care and understand by showing we can totally relate.” — @pas_perdus_autour_du_monde

“We overshare, we are curious about people in general, we like to have better conversations beyond small talk.” — @jyoti.sukhnani

Next Steps

Young woman winking while holding paintbrush against wall during home renovation
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We Are Passionate, Curious, and Creative. We Have Lots to Offer.

“Our brains are fierce and will absolutely thrive in the right environment.” — @happyasagem

“We are VERY intuitive and have a lot to bring to the table. Dismiss me at your own risk!” — @dcjosey

“You have a brilliant, creative, and curious brain that, when focused in your area of extreme interest, has none of the executive function challenges it might have in all other areas. Change your environment when you can, create systems that work for you, do everything you can to calm your nervous system, and practice your creativity every day. Not disordered, just different.” — @tracyotsuka

It can be so freakin’ fun in my head. Let me decorate the party or Google a fun, spontaneous day trip. You’ll never forget the fun!” — @belladonnaflorist

“Workplaces are ill-equipped to support employees with ADHD. I wish they only knew the brilliance and magic we can bring. We revolutionize and empower others despite the hate and shame we’ve faced.” — @tanyaslewis

“Your brain works differently and that is OKAY. You are not broken and there is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with you. Learning to accept the ebbs and flows and not putting so much damn pressure on yourself to perform at a neurotypical standard is key!” — @tifftheofiloscoaching

Next Steps


A grid of portraits of women
Plume Creative - Getty Images. A grid of portraits of women
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We Need You to Give Us the Benefit of the Doubt. And Grace.

“Executive dysfunction is real and we’re not lazy at all.” — @magdeleen_van_eersel

We really are doing the best we can. Don't take any of it personally; it isn't about you.” — @debbie_does_dishes

We aren’t stupid, lazy, crazy, ditzy or any of the other derogatory labels that seem to be associated with ADHD.” — @the.atypical.therapy

Help me build systems for efficiency and don’t criticize my current systems. My brain is fast, which means it scoots on to another task swiftly!” — @jodie.viall

Please celebrate the steps we take. We exert huge amounts of energy to show up.” — @megzmackrenzer

I want ‘time blindness,’ ‘emotional dysregulation,’ and ‘missing social cues’ to be understood by the general population, not just the ADHD community. I don’t believe much is well communicated when we tell others that we have ADHD, but they can learn to understand some of the common symptoms.” — @fivelittlelimes

I’m not standoffish or rude. I’m just very analytical and introverted, so it’s hard for me to open up at first.” — @stephaniefitzzz

“If you take the time to understand our brains, we can give so much to the world. We just need to be given a chance.” —

Just because your brain is typical doesn’t make it right or better. Our differences are just as valid, perfect, and beautiful. Because the world is designed for neurotypical men, it is exhausting just to exist in this environment. So, yeah, no, I’m not going to put the laundry away today.” — @anniehieronymus

Do not judge me by my best day and do not judge me by my worst day. Some days I’m a superstar who does it all and more and some days I’m lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Most days I’m an amalgam of those two; some things come together and others don’t.” — @karenmakesthings

ADHD in Women: Next Steps

*comments edited for brevity and clarity